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Writing an impressive job application

One of the main ways you can write an impressive job application is by using action verbs in your résumé and cover letter. Both documents should be direct and clear, and action verbs will help you achieve that goal.

Read more about the difference between active and passive verbs.

Using dynamic action verbs

Different jobs require different skills, so it can be helpful to categorize verbs according to the skills you’ll be highlighting in your résumé and cover letter. While many skills do apply to more than one type of job, the broad categories below may be useful.

Categories:

Executive and management

Communication

Research

Technical and production

Teaching

Financial

Creative

Helping

Administrative

Executive and management

Executive and management positions typically involve facilitating an organization’s mission and goals; hiring, training, and evaluating staff; and instituting and streamlining procedures. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Lead
  • Led company-wide initiative to gain market share in the entertainment industry
Oversee
  • Oversee editorial development and production
Deliver
  • Delivered revenue increase of 11%
Handle
  • Handle the consolidation of print and online marketing departments
Orchestrate
  • Orchestrated the company’s reorganization in 2014

Communication

Communication positions require good writing, speaking, and presentation skills. Journalism, public relations, editorial, marketing, and development positions all fall in this category, which can overlap with several categories below. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Draft
  • Draft industry-wide guidelines for safety practices
Edit
  • Edit corporate newsletters and web pages
Collaborate
  • Collaborate with other department heads on task force
Synthesize
  • Synthesized product reviews and recommended necessary improvements
Propose
  • Proposed improvements to products and processes based on user testing

Research

Research positions span a broad range of industries and disciplines; research jobs are available at large corporations, small start-up firms, and academic institutions, among many other options. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Investigate
  • Investigate claims of substandard building practices
Measure
  • Measure toxins released at DOE-approved hazardous waste sites
Analyze
  • Analyzed the effects of new traffic pattern in central business district
Interpret
  • Interpret healthcare policy for part-time and temporary employees
Test
  • Test customer service support for new software release

Technical and production

Technical and production positions range from IT jobs requiring knowledge of computer hardware and software to positions designing and servicing everything from cars to plumbing to elevators. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Design
  • Designed company intranet for 123 Hospital Systems
Fabricate
  • Fabricate prototype for improved snow removal vehicles
Operate
  • Operate lathe, milling machine, grinder, band saw, and drill press
Maintain
  • Maintain office equipment including telephones, copiers, and fax machines
Convert
  • Converted MS Excel spreadsheets to MS SQL server and MYSQL databases to save and manage storage space

Teaching

Teaching positions are available at public and private institutions and at all levels, from preschool through higher education. Teachers also work in corporations, government offices, and community centers, among other places. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet 
Develop
  • Developed digital curriculum to engage students
Coach
  • Coach nationally recognized school debate team
Motivate
  • Motivated developmental math students to raise scores by 30%
Train
  • Train company workforce on cultural sensitivity
Tutor
  • Tutor adult literacy learners

Financial

Financial positions include accountantsbankers, analysts, asset managers, stockbrokers, auditors, and many others. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Calculate
  • Calculated possible savings in rent if company converted to open office plan
Project
  • Projected and managed revenue increase of 200K over five years
Allocate
  • Allocate funds needed to institute digital curriculum at Sumerford School
Balance
  • Balanced 123 Hospital Systems operating budget eight years in a row
Conduct
  • Conduct weekly audits of inventory and costs

Creative

Creative positions exist in almost every industry, though when you hear the word “creative” you may think first of the arts. But design is central to marketing and advertising and even workspaces in every field, and innovation takes many forms and is needed in every job sector. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Conceptualize
  • Conceptualize and create brochures from start to finish, including design, text, and production.
Launch
  • Launched and promoted award-winning magazine for the Premier Properties community
Integrate
  • Integrated best practices from the National Board of Ethics into 123 Hospital Systems guidelines
Customize
  • Customize each product according to client’s needs and preferences
Strategize
  • Strategize with advertising team to prioritize venues and budgets

Helping

Helping positions include social workers; psychiatrists, psychologists, and counselors; speech and physical therapists; nurses and doctors; and Emergency Medical Technicians, fire fighters, and police officers, among others. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Advocate
  • Advocate for clients who need assistance navigating local and federal social service systems
Support
  • Support citizens who have been victims of crimes or feel they are in danger
Provide
  • Provide comprehensive evaluation and exercise regimen for each patient
Supply
  • Supply clients with a confidential venue to discuss/share their concerns
Expedite
  • Expedite treatment of critical patients in the Emergency Room

Administrative

Administrative positions include a wide range of possible responsibilities, including but not limited to answering phones, data entry, billing, and writing reports and correspondence. The following action verbs are commonly used to highlight skills in these professions:

Verb
Example résumé bullet
Implement
  • Implement new system for tracking company earnings
Schedule
  • Schedule and coordinate all travel and meetings for three Vice Presidents at Premier Properties corporation
Route
  • Route and file all financial statements, internal memorandums, and articles
Assist
  • Assist the Vice President of Technology in tracking the development of new products
Order
  • Order, receive, and store all office supplies

 

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You may also be interested in:

Writing a résumé

Writing a cover letter

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